WWI brought back to life in 3D color movie

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

LON­DON — Black and white silent film footage from World War I has been trans­formed by Os­car-win­ning direc­tor Peter Jack­son into a 3D color movie to mark the cen­te­nary of the end of the con­flict.

The film­maker painstak­ingly re­stored and col­ored hours of archive footage and paired it with his­tor­i­cal vet­er­ans’ in­ter­views and a spe­cial ef­fects sound­track, to bring the war back to life in an un­prece­dented way.

This in­cluded us­ing lip read­ers to de­ci­pher what soldiers were say­ing in the cen­tury-old film and in­sert­ing new match­ing au­dio recorded with ac­tors.

The film — They Shall Not Grow Old — will be un­veiled for the first time at the Lon­don Film Fes­ti­val next week, and si­mul­ta­ne­ously screened in dif­fer­ent venues across the United King­dom.

“I was ab­so­lutely gob­s­macked by the time we’d fin­ished restor­ing this stuff, I’d had no idea that it could be done so well,” Jack­son said.

“Peo­ple have re­stored film be­fore, but they haven’t re­ally re­stored it to the Nth de­gree.”

The project be­gan four years ago in the of­fice of Diane Lees, direc­tor-gen­eral of Bri­tain’s Im­pe­rial War Mu­se­ums.

Aware Jack­son was a WWI “ad­dict” whose grand­fa­ther fought in the con­flict, Lees pitched him the idea of col­lab­o­rat­ing for the cen­te­nary of the con­flict as part of “14-18 NOW”, a pro­gramme of events to com­mem­o­rate the land­mark.

“They wanted me to use their archival footage, but use it in a way that was sur­pris­ing,” re­called Jack­son, a 2004 Os­car­win­ner for the last film in his The Lord of the Rings tril­ogy.

I was ab­so­lutely gob­s­macked by the time we’d fin­ished restor­ing this stuff, I’d had no idea that it could be done so well.”

Peter Jack­son,

“I’ve looked at a lot of World War I doc­u­men­taries my en­tire life and I thought ‘what the hell can I do with this?’ It’s not been done be­fore.”

Work­ing in his na­tive New Zealand, the film­maker used his own pro­duc­tion com­pany and other restora­tion spe­cial­ists around the world to be­gin trans­form­ing more than 80 hours of old footage into 3D color film.

The team en­coun­tered myr­iad chal­lenges, from scratches and miss­ing frames to film that had shrunk over the cen­tury and in some cases was more than twice as slow as mod­ern footage.

“The film be­came very emo­tional,” Jack­son said of the restora­tion process. “The faces of the men just sud­denly come to life... I’m sud­denly look­ing at this like I’ve never seen it be­fore.

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